Jakarta. Despite the resolution of several political parties to bar lawmakers from taking much-criticized trips overseas in the wake of recent disasters, two House delegations have departed for East Asia and Russia.
Nining Indra Saleh, the House of Representatives secretary general, said the teams left the country on Sunday and Monday, each composed of 10 legislators and two staffers.
â€śOne is from Commission XI, working on the Financial Services Supervisory Authority law, and it flew to Japan and South Korea. The other, from Commission V, is working on the low-cost apartment law,â€ť she said.
Commission XI had initially planned to take comparative study trips to Japan, South Korea, Germany and the United Kingdom, but the European destinations were dropped due to visa issues.
Nining said each commission was allotted Rp 1.7 billion [$112,000] for holding a comparative study trip for each bill.
Each legislator receives $509 for daily expenses, â€śincluding their meals and hotels. Thatâ€™s the standard from the Finance Ministry.â€ť
The National Mandate Party (PAN), Golkar Party, the Great Indonesia Movement Party (Gerindra) and the National Awakening Party (PKB) had told their members at the House to shun overseas trips.
Golkar chairman Aburizal Bakrie said the funds would be better used to help the victims of last weekâ€™s tsunami in the Mentawai Islands and the Mount Merapi eruption.
However, the warnings fell on deaf ears. House Commission XI is led by Golkarâ€™s Nusron Wahid, who was said to be with the team visiting South Korea and Japan.
Nusron could not be reached on Tuesday, but a staffer at the commission named Robert confirmed that the lawmaker was indeed on the trip.
A senior Golkar legislator, Priyo Budi Santoso, said Nusron would face verbal and written reprimands when he returned, but added â€śof course we will not fire someone over this.â€ť
Priyo said there was always a possibility that legislators had not received the official directive issued by the chairman.
Aburizalâ€™s statement that party legislators taking part in overseas trips would be punished was not an idle threat, Priyo said.
â€śWe really mean to stop overseas trips until people in disaster zones get well,â€ť he said.
Meanwhile, Nining refused to release further details on the trips, including the names of those who were participating.
â€śThatâ€™s not my authority to tell, but the commissionâ€™s.â€ť
She also declined to say how much lawmakers had spent on overseas trips this year, which critics see as a waste of taxpayersâ€™ money.